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Small Axe [3 X Blu-ray]

Mangrove (2020)      Lovers Rock (2020)

Red, White and Blue (2020)      Alex Wheatle (2020)      Education (2020)



With the five films that make up his Small Axe anthology (Mangrove; Lovers Rock; Red, White and Blue; Alex Wheatle; and Education), director Steve McQueen offers a richly evocative panorama of West Indian life in London from the late 1960s through the early ’80s—a time defined for the community by the terror of police violence, the empowering awakening of political consciousness, and the ecstatic escape of a vibrant reggae scene. Ranging in tone from tenderly impressionistic to devastatingly clear-eyed, these powerfully performed portraits of Black resistance, joy, creativity, and collective action—all sumptuously shot by Shabier Kirchner—form a revolutionary counterhistory of mid-twentieth-century Britain at a transformational moment.


Theatrical Release: September 25th, 2020 (New York Film Festival)

Reviews                                                                                             More Reviews                                                                            DVD Reviews


Review: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

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Bonus Captures:

Distribution Criterion Spine #1177 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Mangrove: 2:13:36.800

Lovers Rock: 1:13:24.108

Red, White and Blue: 1:24:25.310

Alex Wheatle: 1:09:09.228

Education: 1:06:11.008


2.39:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,387,937,167 bytes

Feature: 28,047,943,680 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Lovers Rock:

1.78:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,387,937,167 bytes

Feature: 16,787,208,192 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.29 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Red, White and Blue:

1.85:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,874,516,017 bytes

Feature: 17,991,923,712 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.54 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Alex Wheatle:

2.00:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,874,516,017 bytes

Feature: 13,920,903,168 bytes

Video Bitrate: 21.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video


1.60:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,874,516,017 bytes

Feature: 15,095,273,472 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.47 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate Mangrove  Blu-ray:

Bitrate Lovers Rock Blu-ray:

Bitrate Red, White and Blue Blu-ray:

Bitrate Alex Wheatle Blu-ray:

Bitrate Education Blu-ray:


DTS-HD Master Audio English 3442 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3442 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Subtitles English (SDH), None
Features Release Information:


Edition Details:

• New conversation between McQueen and writer and professor Paul Gilroy (28:08)
• Behind-the-scenes featurettes including interviews with McQueen, executive producer Tracey Scoffield, writing consultant Alex Wheatle, and members of the Small Axe cast (3:41 / 4:41 / 4:32 / 5:29)
• Uprising (2021), a three-part documentary co-directed by McQueen and James Rogan about the tragic 1981 New Cross house fire (1:01:58 / 1:01:58 / 1:02:01)
• Trailers (1:01 / 1:05 / 0:33 / 0:33)
PLUS: An essay by film programmer and critic Ashley Clark

Blu-ray Release Date:
April 25th, 2023
Transparent Blu-ray Case inside slipcase

Chapters 23 / 13 / 16 / 15 / 14




NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion Blu-ray (March 2023): Criterion have transferred Steve McQueen's Small Axe to Blu-ray. It is cited as being "New high-definition masters of all five films, approved by director Steve McQueen". Despite the five films being shared on two Blu-rays (the third disc has extras) with modest bitrates - the image quality is strong. There are 5 different aspect ratio utilized - 1.60:1 (Education), 1.78:1 (Lover's Rock), 1.85:1 (Red, White and Blue), 2.00:1 (Alex Wheatle) and 2.35:1 (Mangrove).  Education was shot in 16mm - Arriflex 416 (designed for 16mm filmmaking in the Super 16 format) - and that is the only major difference in visual quality - it is thicker with more prominent grain textures. The 1080P image, shot with exquisite flourishes by cinematographer Shabier Kirchner, looks as exceptional as you might expect modern films rendered to the Blu-ray format could look; pristine, bright, true colors and strong contrast.

NOTE: We have added 150 more large resolution Blu-ray captures (in lossless PNG format) for DVDBeaver Patrons HERE

On their Blu-ray, Criterion use a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround tracks (24-bit) in the original English language. Small Axe has some aggressive sequences. The score for Mangrove and Lovers Rock is credited to Mica Levi (Under the Skin) plus the first film has some Bob Marley and The Wailers, Jim Reeves, Toots & The Maytals, Llewella Gideon etc. Lover's Rock has some songs by Sunday Girl, Shaniqua Okwok, Carl Douglas's Kung Fu Fighting, more Bob Marley, The Delfonics, The Revolutionaries, Lee 'Scratch' Perry and others. Red, White and Blue offered more Jim Reeves, Gloria Jones, Al Green, Billy Joel, Marvin Gaye, Melle Mel etc. Alex Wheatle had sampling by The Abyssinians, Johnny Clarke, The Flames, more Bob Marley & The Wailers, Sugar Minott and others while the last film, Education had London's Burning performed by school children, Lazy Sunday by Small Faces and Stewart Wright performing The House of the Rising Sun. It sounded quite buoyant in the lossless. Criterion offer optional English (SDH) subtitles on their Region 'A' Blu-ray.

The Criterion Blu-ray add extras. There is a new 1/2 hour conversation between Small Axe director Steve McQueen and University College London Professor of the Humanities Paul Gilroy, who served as one of the anthology's consultants. It was recorded in London in 2023 and produced by Criterion. There are about 20-minutes worth of Behind-the-scenes featurettes for each film including interviews with McQueen, executive producer Tracey Scoffield, writing consultant Alex Wheatle, and members of the Small Axe cast; ex. actors John Boyega, Steve Toussaint, Malachi Kirby, Shaun Parkes, and Letitia Wright. There are also trailers. The third Blu-ray offers the three hour Uprising (2021), a three-part documentary co-directed by McQueen and James Rogan about the tragic 1981 New Cross house fire. Uprising tells the extraordinary story of three intertwined events from 1981: the New Cross Fire, which killed 13 young black people; the Black People's Day of Action; and the Brixton riots. The series focuses on the tragedy and aftermath of events in 1981 which it argues would go on to define race relations in the United Kingdom for a generation. In May 2022, Uprising won a television BAFTA for Factual Series. It's a fabulous inclusion in this set. The package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by film programmer and critic Ashley Clark.

Steve McQueen's Small Axe title references a proverb – "Small axe fall big tree" or "If you are the big tree, we are the small axe". It was popularized by Bob Marley in his 1973 song "Small Axe". This Criterion Blu-ray package of this anthology series is outstanding. These masterfully realized five films share common themes but are all distinctly different efforts that do not intersect. This is some of the most brilliant cinema I have seen in a long time. McQueen is best know for 12 Years a Slave (2013), Hunger (2008), and Shame (2011) was born in London to a Grenadian mother and a Trinidadian father. He draws from his experiences in schooling - marginalized being dyslexic and also wearing an eye patch because of a lazy eye. Notable are Mangrove and Lovers Rock (the latter was the top-ranked film in Sight & Sound's best films of 2020) but I also very much enjoyed Red, White and Blue, Alex Wheatle and Education. The inclusion of the three-hour documentary Uprising (2021) adds even more value to this remarkable set. I expect this to be voted on in our year-end poll. Our highest recommendation! 

Gary Tooze


Menus / Extras





Steve McQueen’s multistrand anthology of West Indian immigrant life in London opens in the late 1960s with this stirring ensemble film. In a Caribbean restaurant, a group of Black activists, intellectuals, and ordinary people converge and unite in struggle against incessant police harassment, leading to an explosive showdown on the streets and a courtroom drama that challenges the racist power structures of British society. Based on real events, this is a passionate vision of community as a form of resistance, performed by a dynamic cast (led by Shaun Parkes, Letitia Wright, and Malachi Kirby) and bolstered by McQueen’s eye for vivid sensory detail.








Suffused with the intoxicating sounds of reggae, dub, and lovers rock, the second installment in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series unfolds over the course of one rapturous night into dawn in early-1980s West London, as a young woman (the luminous Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) sneaks out to attend a house party. As the alternately languorous and ecstatic rhythms pulse from a homemade sound system, romance sparks on the dance floor, small human dramas play out, and, for a moment, this gathering is a safe haven from the outside world. Aided by the sensuous cinematography of Shabier Kirchner, McQueen captures an exhilarating expression of Black joy in a society often intent on stifling it.









Both a hard-hitting indictment of structural injustice and a penetrating portrait of a complex man, Red, White and Blue boasts a passionate, multilayered performance from John Boyega as Leroy Logan, a Black research scientist whose decision to join the notoriously racist London police force, in hopes of reforming it from the inside, brings him into conflict with his family, community, and very sense of self. Based on a true story, this nuanced exploration of Margaret Thatcher–era racial tensions powerfully portrays the psychic struggle of a lone man going up against a system designed to crush him.









An intimate account of a decisive moment in British history unfolds via the true story of one man’s awakening Black consciousness. Raised in cold, oppressive children’s homes that have left him estranged from his West Indian roots, the eponymous orphan Alex Wheatle (Sheyi Cole) gradually finds his voice as an artist, activist, and writer on the streets of Brixton—a transformation that intersects with the 1981 uprising in which the neighborhood’s mainly Black youth erupt in protest against police violence. Interwoven with the vibrant reggae that inspired its subject’s journey, Alex Wheatle crackles with the heady political and cultural energy of a singular time and place.









A Black boy’s journey through an ineffectual public school system reveals the racial inequities built into everyday British life. Young Kingsley Smith (Kenyah Sandy) is a spirited aspiring astronaut with a love of drawing whose life is turned upside down when he is thrust into a new school for the “educationally subnormal”—a harrowing experience that gradually awakens his mother (Sharlene Whyte) to the institutional mistreatment of the children of West Indian immigrants. Shot on Super 16 mm to evoke BBC television dramas from the 1970s, the final Small Axe film concludes the pentalogy with a hopeful vision of the power of Black-led collective action.








More full resolution (1920 X 1080) Blu-ray Captures for DVDBeaver Patreon Supporters HERE





Lovers Rock


Red, White and Blue

Alex Wheatle



Box Cover

CLICK to order from:


Bonus Captures:

Distribution Criterion Spine #1177 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



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